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Old Flames

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Burned again. Men never treated Dora well. This latest cheated on her and dumped her. The last decent guy she knew was her old high school boyfriend, Jim. He'd said that he loved her. Maybe he did. So with the help of Flame Finders, Dora's found him again. Turns out he's married with two kids. But Dora isn't about to let that stand in her way...

Includes the bonus novella Right to Life: When Sara Foster is kidnapped in front of an abortion clinic in broad daylight, taken off a busy Manhattan street by a pair of total strangers - Stephen and Katherine Teach - she is three months pregnant with her married lover's child. Her abductors seem to know that...

289 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 25, 2008

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About the author

Jack Ketchum

204 books2,264 followers
Dallas William Mayr, better known by his pen name Jack Ketchum, was an American horror fiction author. He was the recipient of four Bram Stoker Awards and three further nominations. His novels included Off Season, Offspring, and Red, which were adapted to film. In 2011, Ketchum received the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre.

A onetime actor, teacher, literary agent, lumber salesman, and soda jerk, Ketchum credited his childhood love of Elvis Presley, dinosaurs, and horror for getting him through his formative years. He began making up stories at a young age and explained that he spent much time in his room, or in the woods near his house, down by the brook: "[m]y interests [were] books, comics, movies, rock 'n roll, show tunes, TV, dinosaurs [...] pretty much any activity that didn't demand too much socializing, or where I could easily walk away from socializing." He would make up stories using his plastic soldiers, knights, and dinosaurs as the characters.

Later, in his teen years, Ketchum was befriended by Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, who became his mentor.

Ketchum worked many different jobs before completing his first novel (1980's controversial Off Season), including acting as agent for novelist Henry Miller at Scott Meredith Literary Agency.

His decision to eventually concentrate on novel writing was partly fueled by a preference for work that offered stability and longevity.

Ketchum died of cancer on January 24, 2018, in New York City at the age of 71.

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5 stars
117 (12%)
4 stars
298 (32%)
3 stars
381 (40%)
2 stars
108 (11%)
1 star
26 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 110 reviews
Profile Image for Misty Marie Harms.
559 reviews301 followers
January 6, 2022
Dora's mind goes off the rails when her lover coldly dumps her. With the help of Flame Finders, she tracks down her high school boyfriend, Jim. Dora is a woman on a mission, and the fact Jim is married with two kids is no skin off her nose. She plans on rekindling her high school romance no matter what Jim thinks.

Profile Image for Addy.
255 reviews56 followers
February 23, 2015
The first story, Old Flames, is probably a 3 star read for me. It started off really good. The woman was like able before she spiraled down into some crazy, psychotic person. There was a part that stood out for me, maybe it was a turning point to her downward fall but it was really well written. I was expecting a little more violence, but Ketchum kinda stayed on the tame side. The ending wasn't memorable and could have been better but that was ok because the other novella, Right To Life certainly made up for that. RTL bumped it to a 5 star read. It was the Ketchum I expected. It was brutal, violent, disturbing but maintained the awesome ending I was rooting for. Be prepared for an intense read. You won't want any distractions for this one. I prob was holding my breath at the end which I gratefully dispelled at the last page. If you are a Ketchum fan, don't miss out!
Profile Image for Carol.
2,325 reviews71 followers
December 1, 2021
The book actually consists of two novellas. Be warned that they are both nasty, dark, wretched, and twisted. There is a disclaimer attached to the description that reads “This novel contains graphic content and is recommended for regular readers of horror novels.” Of course, that’s like telling a 16-year-old kid that the R rated movie they have managed to get themselves into unnoticed ...is “for adults only”. Bet a lot of copies of this were sold to folks just wanting to see what “graphic content” the “regular horror genre readers” were reading that they weren’t. The first novella... "Old Flames" is very much in the style of "Fatal Attraction" but without the typical Hollywood ending and the ‘bunny scene” ... although there was something almost as bad to replace it. Dora finds her old high school boyfriend, Jim. She finds out that he's married with two children but she's not about to let that stop her. The second one..."Right to Life"… believe it or not, is the better of the two. Sara is taken outside of an abortion clinic and held captive by a couple intent on taking her baby. I read a lot of books that could be considered “strange "and “unusual ", but this was almost too much for me. The subject matter is extremely dark and believe me ... it's not for everyone. I understand from other people that this is typical fare for Jack Ketchum books. I had another of his books on my reading list for December but I think I’ll by-pass it.
Profile Image for Hayley.
269 reviews
January 24, 2021
This is my first Jack Ketchum book, and I really enjoyed the first story Old Flames. It was well-written, intense, there was sex and I didn't hate it because it had to do with the story. Right to Life, the second story in the book, I couldn't finish. There was so much sexual violence; it just wasn't for me. I skipped ahead to the end to make sure the cat lived. 🙂 I did acquire a copy of The Girl Next Door because it's a classic and I will try to read it, but Ketchum may be too real for me. We'll see!
Profile Image for Weinlachgummi.
947 reviews44 followers
August 24, 2020
Bei Psychotic hat mich besonders der Klappentext angesprochen. Eine verschmähte Frau, die viel einstecken musste, macht sie auf den Weg ihre erste große Liebe zu finden. Den Mann, der sie nicht wie all die anderen schlecht behandelt hat. Doch führt er nun das perfekte Leben, er hat eine wunderbare Frau, zwei Kinder und natürlich das Vorstadthaus mit Pool. Und was hat Dora? Oder nein, die Frage lautet wohl eher, was ist Dora bereit zu tun, um das zu bekommen, was ihr zusteht? Denn verdient denn nicht jeder sein Glück und wenn es nicht von alleine kommt, muss man es sich holen.

Auch der Autor hat mich angesprochen, nachdem ich die letzten Monate vermehrt im Horror / Thriller Bereich gelesen habe ist der Name Jack Ketchum immer wieder aufgetaucht. Zunächst war ich überrascht wie gut er schreibt, ja vielleicht etwas gemeint, aber ich habe nicht erwartet, dass sein Schreibstil so gut ist. Er hat genau die richtige Mischung, präzise und auf den Punkt gebracht, aber genug, damit man sich als LeserIn in die Geschichte und die Charaktere einfügen kann.

So schafft er es trotz der wenigen Seiten einen Horrortrip entstehen zu lassen, fängt dabei schön ruhig und langsam an und steigert sich immer mehr. Erzählt wird die Geschichte immer wieder aus verschiedenen Perspektiven, was durch die Kapitel Überschriften klar herauskommt. So bekommt man einen guten Einblick und das nicht nur in Dora.

Wobei Dora ganz klar die Protagonistin ist. Mit ihr musste ich zunächst klarkommen. Auf der einen Seite ist sie gut beleuchtet. Doch da der Autor darauf verzichtet, genauer auf ihre Vergangenheit einzugehen, fiel es mir etwas schwer zu verstehen, warum sie durchdreht. Zunächst, dann habe ich es als wie soll ich sagen, eigentlichen Kniff der Geschichte verstanden, denn da er darauf verzichtet lange und breit aufzuzählen, was ihr alles Schlimmes widerfahren ist. Könnte man die Geschichte auf jede Frau münzen, die je von einem Mann schlecht behandelt wurde und da gibt es jede Menge.

Und so bleibt die Frage, was bringt eine Frau dazu so durchzudrehen, war Dora schon immer eine Psychopathin, haben die "Männergeschichten" sie dazu gemacht? Ich mag es sehr, wenn es in diese psychologische Ebene geht und dies schafft der Autor hier richtig gut. Ein wirklich gelungener Psychothriller.
Profile Image for Kasia.
398 reviews272 followers
May 15, 2011
After reading Ketchum's gross fest masterpiece "Off Season" and its sequel "Offspring" I was always under the impression that his works were all about psychical terror, tearing out limbs and such, but this novel surprised me, it gave me a glimpse of his writer's mind and the way he toys with stories and ideas. I am not saying that icky things aren't happening here, they are but along a different story line, this time the evil people are seemingly average folks and not cannibals who live in caves...unfortunately death sucks no matter how pretty or polite the killer is.

The book is composed of two novellas. First is about Dora, a woman who never found happiness with men ( mostly on her own accord) and they way she choose a better way to quench her thirst for closure and the other about Sara, who gets kidnapped on her way to the abortion clinic. Both are pretty short but there is some meat in each one, my favorite was the second even though it was more ruthless and insane, the first is more like a nightly news story gone psycho but the second one gave me chills. I enjoyed them both but usually I prefer longer novels and I think both would benefit from some stretching. I never felt that Dora was as crazy as the words made her, it seemed like I was supposed to be scared of her because I was told to, not because she was indeed insane. Sara on the other had more of my sympathy; I just wish the ending was longer, the buildup was so good that I wished for more. Her capturers were indeed two loons who were in a huge need of a gluteus maximus kicking and Ketchum did a good job of making me furious at them.

Overall this was a fun and super fast read. I think its interesting how he made Dora the menace and Sara the tortured one, two sides of a female that join in one novel, kinda neat.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
198 reviews15 followers
February 14, 2017
Love jack ketchum and this was a good story loved the ending but at times felt like he threw some stuff in their just to take up space.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,032 reviews23 followers
April 17, 2017
Old Flames: A terrific story of a lover scorned and how far an individual will go for "love." The plot is simple but done with an expert's touch. He's able to craft characters in this one that feel fleshed out despite only having known them for 100 pages or so. A twisted tale that I really enjoyed. It moved at a triphammer speed and Ketchum created a tension and atmosphere that led up to a jolting conclusion. Very well done.
Rating: 5/5

Right to Life: Whew! Man, what a fucked up story! Ketchum puts his twisted imagination on display here and pretty much every horrible thing you can imagine being done to a woman's body, happens. Ketchum throws in some social commentary and does a good job at making you despise the horrible antagonists in the story. While I didn't think it was a bad story, I didn't necessarily enjoy it either. I don't think this is the type of story that can be "enjoyed" at least in the traditional sense. Ketchum knows how to paint very vivid and graphic scenes of violence and torture that can make even the strongest willed readers cringe. I place this story in the same category as horror films that involve torture and the like. While I'm not necessarily a big fan of that subgenre, I can still recognize when one is done well. This story was. I much preferred "Old Flames " and seem to be in the minority with that opinion but I just found it to be a more engrossing read in virtually every way. This one is hardcore so only read if you dare.
Rating: 3.5/5

Both novellas are quick reads and the book is under 300 pages total. This is a plus because the book can be finished in a day (I did.)
Ketchum is a damn good writer. Even though I wasn't that crazy about "Right to Life," from prior experiences and this read, the man can tell a story and make the horrors of real life disturb the hell out of you.
I love how Ketchum is able to make seemingly ordinary people the monsters in his stories. He doesn't delve into the supernatural that often and quite frankly he doesn't need to. The real life horrors that he depicts are scary as hell in their own right.
The characters he creates are layered for the most part and he's able to elicit some sort of emotional response from the reader regarding them. He creates strong female leads in both stories which was a nice touch.
The shift in tone and mood from the first novella to the second is drastic and caught me off guard. I went in to both of these stories not knowing very much about them and I think that added to the shock value.
Profile Image for Adamus.
69 reviews7 followers
January 1, 2016
This was a good book with 2 stories. Old Flames was more of a 4 stars to me & Right to Life was 5. Both stories were very well written the plots were very real & that's one of the best qualities about Jack Ketchum his stories all seem so real & could happen to anybody. He writes horror that could be so real & the way he writes is so vivid. That's why he's my favorite horror writer. The story's could have been longer, but for even only being 200 pages they fit the story very well & left nothing to the imagination. Jack Ketchum doesn't hold anything back when it comes to suspense weather it's gore & grotesque or just jaw dropping action. Definitely a great read highly recommended.
Profile Image for Darian Marie.
22 reviews1 follower
October 11, 2022
I purchased the kindle version of Old Flames. The pacing of Old Flames was odd- it was a very short story yet it took a long time to get to the point of the story it felt like.

Dora’s break up with Owen and then subsequent one night stand with the married man had nothing to do with tracking down her ex boyfriend (which was the plot of the story.. i think that was about 30ish pages in) and it didn’t even tell me anything about Dora except that she gets upset when she is broken up with (anyone would) and she frequents bars in her forties, I guess? I’m not sure why this needed to be included, these parts really could have been taken out of the book and nothing about the story would have changed except the length and it would have been less boring.

The second story, right to life, was written better than the first story was, I thought. However it contains some extremely graphic and upsetting content. I felt sick and somewhat upset after reading it, which is nobody’s fault except for mine as I read the reviews and knew the book contained sexual content, but I regret this purchase and read overall. Don’t feel like I got much out of it except the awareness that I’m much more squeamish than I originally thought.
Profile Image for Collin Henderson.
Author 12 books14 followers
March 1, 2019
Old flames: this was a kind of strange, single white female esque story. Essentially a woman named Dora is fed up with how men are treating her and forces her way back into the life of her high school sweetheart. This ends in extremely dark fashion. The thing that surprised me is that I don't think Ketchum makes the reader fully understand Dora. He excels at making truly awful people feel three dimensional, but that was lacking here. Not bad but not great either.

Right to Life: the superior novella of the two, involving a pregnant woman on the way to the abortion clinic being kidnapped and tied up in a pair of psychopaths basement. Ketchum is retreading old ground here, but this is still a nasty and effective piece of exploitation fiction with a much better ending than the first novella in this book. Again, not his strongest work, but this still manages to feel uniquely horrific in comparison to the rest of his bibliography.
Profile Image for Nicki.
59 reviews
September 29, 2021
Quick and dirty novella, good fun in a bunny boiler sort of way. The main gal, Dora is Jessica Rabbit meets Glen Close (in that movie, you know the one). I occasionally felt like I should have this book concealed in a brown paper bag whilst reading it on the train! However I loved how descriptive the story was, I felt like I could smell the cigarette smoke, alcohol and tears in the room. Enjoyable and short.
Profile Image for Konnie Jones.
33 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2018
This book includes Right To Life along with Old Flames. Both solid stories. But I prefer Right To Life. It's a bit more horrifying, IMO.
Profile Image for Anja.
264 reviews9 followers
July 20, 2020
Hat mir gut gefallen. Kurzweilige Unterhaltung und ich mag einfach die Art wie Jack Ketchum seine Geschichten erzählt, nur Ende war nicht so meins.
Profile Image for David Sodergren.
Author 12 books454 followers
August 3, 2017
Amazingly disappointing book from one of the greatest horror writers, Old Flames is comprised of two novellas. The first is a fairly entertaining take on Fatal Attraction but with a damp squib of an ending, and the second is a thinly disguised rewrite of The Girl Next Door with all the heart and soul ripped out, leaving an empty and tedious torture porn spectacle of degrading sexual violence.
Profile Image for Melissa Helwig.
65 reviews21 followers
February 6, 2010
Both novellas feature strong female characters. One as an antagonist and one as a protagonist. Old Flames is about a recently dumped woman, Dora, who uses a service called Flame Finders to find her high school sweetheart. To her dismay, he is married and has children. But that won't stop Dora from staking her claim. It's Fatal Attraction for the 00's. With so many people now looking up old flames and friends via Facebook and MySpace readers can easily relate.

This novella moves quickly and had me frantically flipping the pages. I couldn't wait to see what crazy Dora would do next. The writing is superb, as it always is with Ketchum. I wish it was longer so the characters were more fleshed out. They're fleshed out enough for a 130 page novella, but I think it would've been interesting to have more back story on Dora, and why she is such a psycho. I also thought the ending was confusing. I had to re-read the last chapters a couple times until I understood what happened. But I still enjoyed it.

Old Flames is a pretty good novella, but I think it would have made an amazing novel.

Rating: 4/5

The second novella, Right to Life, has previously been released on its own (see left). I was more excited for this one than the title story because I had been wanting to read it for awhile. But people who have already read Right to Life may feel ripped off buying a book for a 130 page novella.

Right to Life is about a pregnant woman, Sara, who is kidnapped outside of an abortion clinic by a pro-life couple. The couple, who can't have children of their own, intend to keep Sara as their prisoner until the baby is born.

Ironically, this is the better novella of the two. Sara is a protagonist who I really cared about and the couple who kidnaps her are villains I loved to hate. The story moves quickly, I read it in one sitting. Unlike Old Flames, Right to Life is the perfect length. It is very intense and has some brutal violence, which would be too overwhelming for novel length. I found myself disgusted with some parts, but I think my strong reaction is just a testament to how amazing it is. Readers who don't feel that way toward stories with brutal violence, may want to steer clear of this novella. Ketchum is great at writing realistic horror novels involving situations that you can see happening in real life.

Rating: 5/5

So, I would give both of the novellas together a 4.5/5.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
167 reviews15 followers
September 24, 2012
Okay, anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of Ketchum's work—The Lost being one of my favorites. With this book, Ketchum delivers two captivating novellas, Old Flames and A Right to Life.

Old Flames is a story of obsession that ends tragically. The female lead, Dora, is a nut-job. It's obvious within the first few pages that she's a bit unhinged and it only gets worse from there. Moral of the story—if you run into an old flame, leave it in the past where it belongs!

The second story is A Right to Life. Honestly, at first, I didn't know if I wanted to even read this one but decided to give it a chance anyway. I am not a fan of reading about child horror and I thought this is where this story would go, but it didn't. This is a gripping story about a woman named Sara Foster. Right off, I felt bad for Sara. She's in her early forties and finds herself pregnant by her married lover. Some years ago, Sara's lost her only child Daniel when he drown in a frozen lake. Now she's pregnant and is about to walk into a clinic to abort her baby. Before she can even get to the clinic doors, she's kidnapped by a couple who has big plans for her and her unborn child.

What Sara goes through at the hands of her captors is unnerving and made me very squeamish at times. Up until the last couple of chapters, I kept wondering where Ketchum was going to take this story. I had no idea how the heck it would end. It was a very open novella that could have had several possible endings. Thankfully, Ketchum went with the ending I would have chosen. After feeling tense and hopeless during most of the story, the ending left me with closure and a good feeling.

Both of the novellas contained in this book are pretty good stories. Very well worth the read.
Profile Image for Maicie.
530 reviews20 followers
February 2, 2011
First, a complaint. I am not usually hung up on grammar and punctuation errors. I make quite a few myself. But the editor of this book was asleep at the job. I think there were maybe 10 commas in the whole book. Better too many commas than too few. Consider the following:

An English teacher wrote these words on the whiteboard: “woman without her man is nothing.” The teacher then asked the students to punctuate the words correctly.
The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”
The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is nothing.”

Pretty big difference, right? This book lost a star for punctuation…or lack of (I know, that’s a dangling preposition). That’s a first for me.

I purchased Red andOld Flames to fulfill a reading challenge. Both are by Jack Ketchum, a terrific writer who isn’t afraid to go over the top in gore and gross out. RED was awesome. So was "Old Flames". But the ‘bonus’ novella “The Right to Life” was almost too much. My blood ran to ice water. That was probably the author’s intent but it really made me uncomfortable. The corkscrew…dear Lord in heaven….the corkscrew.

“Old Flames” was the story that fulfilled the challenge requirement so that’s where I’ll focus my review. It has a “Fatal Attraction” feel but Dora, the main character, makes the Glenn Close role look like Betty Crocker. Imagine a Barbie doll on acid. That’s Dora! The story is a mere 130 pages long so you can read it in one uneasy sitting
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,919 reviews56 followers
February 15, 2016
Another day, another Jack Ketchum novella. Or possibly novel. It's hard to tell. Ladies' Night is classified as a novel, at 175 pages, but this one is classified a novella, at 180. Maybe it's about word count. Or maybe it's about whatever the publisher wants to call it to justify a given price point.

In Old Flames, we meet Dora, a woman who has poor luck with men. After her current beau jilts her, she has a chance encounter with a friend of hers from high school, who not only reminds her of Jim, her high school sweetheart, but also of an agency who can track down lost connections for a small fee. So does Dora find a way to reconnect with Jim, despite him being married with two children.

I've written a lot about Ketchum's fiction already -- brutal, nihilistic, compelling, sometimes hopeful, sometimes not -- so I won't cover that ground again. This novella is right up there with the rest of his fiction, though I will say that Old Flames is another hash mark on the "Hopeless" tally for Ketchum. Despite it moving quickly, some of the character development in the novella feels sudden and rushed.

Mediocre Jack Ketchum is still a notch above other dark fiction out there, so this will still be of interest to fans of the genre, or of the author. It's actually less graphic than his other work, so I could see it being a good introduction to the author's style, but at the same time, it won't prepare them for when they move on to The Girl Next Door. It's a solid story that reads quickly, but it's hardly the best (or worst) thing he's ever written.
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,540 reviews29 followers
December 23, 2008
Again, I have to question the choice of titles. This was the shorter of the two novellas/short stories in the book. Until I started reading I didn't see that there were two stories. I thought there was only one. Not that it matters. I read somewhere after that the first story was newly written and the last story was wriiten many years ago. I had never read either story so that was fine by me. I also read that there were quite a few comparisons with "Right to Life" and "The Girl Next Door." I have the latter on my Wishlist so I don't have anything to compare it to.

I found the first story rather tame. Sure, the main character was a psycho, but a fairly tame one in the realm of Ketchum. The second story was graphic and violent, exactly what I expect from Ketchum.

A great horror read that I'll pass along to my brother.
Profile Image for William M..
569 reviews57 followers
June 29, 2011

If you have ever dated someone who you felt was unstable, imagine that person a dozen times worse and bent on revenge, using every ounce of their energy to invade your life and destroy everything around you. This is the main character, Dora Welles, of Jack Ketchum's new novella, Old Flames. True, the book is quite short, but that doesn't take away from this chilling tale of one woman's quick decent into madness and revenge. Ketchum uses clean, beautiful prose with a stunningly impressive economy of words, never backing away from the difficult subject matter. His honest and realistic approach to sudden and spontaneous violence is the best in the genre today. Incredibly addictived and one of the best titles of the year.
Profile Image for J. Kent Messum.
Author 5 books227 followers
March 4, 2014
Let's get something out of the way first... Ketchum can write, there's no doubt about that. This book was a good read, two novellas for the price of one, but for me one of those novellas was far better than the other. 'Old Flames' is new take on an old faithful, and a refresher that made me fearful of a woman's scorn once again.

You get the impression that the second novella, 'Right To Life', was thrown in for good measure. It leaned greatly toward the torture porn side of things, a shock-value sub-genre that I've never been particularly fond of. Overall, it's not a bad little story, but it doesn't hold a candle to the first in the book, or Ketchum's more popular works in general. I found it to be more of an anchor to 'Old Flames'.
Profile Image for chucklesthescot.
2,905 reviews119 followers
October 29, 2014
This novella was so boring and longwinded that it nearly sent me to sleep. It is the story of a woman whose partner cheats on her and dumps her, and she starts to think about her first real love. When she finds out where he is, she is determined to get back in his life whether he likes it or not.

Well that is what the blurb says. I never even got to her seeing Jim again before I abandoned this. It was page after page of Dora's ramblings, her weekend fling with a man she meets after she was robbed, her thoughts about Jim, the agency...blah blah blah. It was just waffle and endless rambling with nothing much of interest.

Very poor book.
Profile Image for Vicki Willis.
784 reviews51 followers
June 6, 2015
This was a good read! It had two shorter stories in it. The first one was Old Flames and was about a woman stalking her boyfriend from high school 20 years later. The second was was Right to Life and was about a pregnant woman trying to go to an abortion clinic who was abducted. Both were very fast paced and twisted. I would recommend to those who like disturbing things!
Profile Image for Margery.
20 reviews3 followers
June 27, 2009
The reviews of this book were a far better read than the book.
Profile Image for Phil.
1,550 reviews90 followers
June 19, 2019
This novel is really two novellas. Old Flames was ok, the second novella "the right to life" was more typical Ketchum and better.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 110 reviews

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